The Chicago 2016 bid’s attempt to quickly take control of the coveted Chicago2016.com domain name from entrepeneur Steve Frayne has failed and it will now be up to U.S. Federal courts to sort out the mess – a procedure that could take months or years.
Chicago’s Olympic bid committee sought to enforce their “Chicago 2016” trademark by filing a claim with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) earlier this year and claiming that Frayne was using the domain in bad faith. However, Frayne and his attorneys filed a motion to suspend the proceedings so that the issue could be heard by Federal courts. This week WIPO granted the motion and terminated its involvement in the case, according to filed documents.
The issue is not a simple one.
Frayne registered the domain before the United States Olympic Committee filed for the trademark, and he claims he did this to launch a forum designed to openly discuss the benefits and pitfalls of holding the Olympic in Chicago. Although the name was registered in 2004, the site only went live late last month after the story began to make news headlines.
Frayne also registered up to 40 other domain names with a similar city/year format that mimics the way Olympic Games are marketed.
One of these domains, Tokyo2016.com, is about to become embroiled in the cyber-battle. Tokyo is competing against Chicago to host the same 2016 Olympic Games and both bids are compelled to gain control of key domain names and provide guarantees of such in their application files due February 2009.
The Olympic bid candidature documentation published by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) states that each bid must “…provide documentation indicating that appropriate measures have been taken to register domain names that are of value to your candidature such as ‘[City] 2016’ followed by extensions .com .net .org as well as the country code concerned.”
Rio de Janiero, another competitor in the race, already has control of rio2016.com. It was registered in 2003 when they were in their early stages of a bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Madrid.2016.com is registered by an unknown resident of Madrid, another city vying to host the Games in 2016. After a successful WIPO decision in 2003 Madrid recovered the domain Madrid2012.com while they were bidding for the 2012 Games.
Any decision made in this federal case would be precedent setting and could result in a major paradigm shift for the IOC. Currently hundreds of city/year domains are in the hands of non-Olympic registrants, all covering future Olympic years and cities that are capable hosts. Unless the IOC embarks on a campaign of proactively registering as many interesting domains as they can – an act of cybersquatting – they’ll have to reconsider how they use the Web to market the Olympics.
Attorney Tim Schaum told GamesBids.com that Steve Frayne is in Tokyo this week meeting with sports economists and community leaders in order to develop a Tokyo2016.com Website similar to Chicago’s. Tokyo bid officials had no information to report on their involvement in the issue.